New Delhi

NEW DELHI: The Centre on Monday told the Supreme Court that political parties should not be brought under the purview of the RTI Act as this would hamper their functioning and is fraught with the danger of rivals misusing the law to settle political scores. 

The Centre said that the proposition of declaring political parties as public authority could give opportunity to political rival to file pleas with malicious intent. It said there were already provisions under the Representation of the People Act and Income Tax Act to bring transparency regarding financial aspects of the parties. 

The Centre filed its response complying with the SC order asking the government to take a stand on why political parties should not be made amenable to RTI Act to bring accountability and transparency in their functioning. 

Although the Central Information Commission in 2013 declared national political parties as public authorities and directed them to follow the provisions of the RTI Act, they refused to comply with the order. The SC had agreed to intervene in the case after the Commission expressed inability to get its own order complied with as it did not have the power to initiate contempt proceedings. 

When the RTI Act was enacted, it was never visualized that political parties would be brought within the ambit of the transparency law, the Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT) said in an affidavit in the apex court. 

"If the political parties are held to be public authorities under the Act, it would hamper their smooth internal working. Further it is apprehended that political rivals might file RTI application with malicious intentions to the CPIOs of the parties, thereby adversely affecting their political functioning," the affidavit said. 

"CIC has made a very liberal interpretation of Section 2(h) of the RTI Act, leading to an erroneous conclusion that political parties are public authorities. Political parties are not established or constituted by or under the Constitution or by any other law made by Parliament. Political parties are constituted by their registration under the RPA and this cannot be construed as akin to establishment of a body or institution by an appropriate government as held by CIC," it said. 

The CIC in its order held that all six national political parties — BJP, Congress, BSP, CPI, CPM and NCP—were public authorities as they had been substantially financed by the Central government. "It would be odd to argue that transparency is good for all state organs but not so good for political parties, which, in reality, control all the vital organs of the state," it had said. 

The Law Commission in its 170th Report had also made a recommendation for transparency in the functioning of political parties, especially on internal democracy, financial transparency and accountability in their working. 

The SC had also issued notice to all the six national political parties, seeking their stand on why they should not be declared public authorities to be amenable to the transparency law after RTI activist Subhash Chandra Agrawal moved the Supreme Court for implementation of CIC order. 

"All national and regional political parties must disclose for public scrutiny complete details of their income, expenditure, donations and funding including details of donors making donations to these political parties and their electoral trusts. Great harm is being caused to public interest due to lack of transparency in the political system and the political parties, as the electoral system is generating huge black money and large sums of money are being spent on every election," he said. 

The petitioner contended that details of donors and their donations should be made public under the RTI, a practice followed in various countries such as Bhutan, Nepal, Germany, France, Italy, Brazil, Bulgaria, the US and Japan. "At present, political parties are not required to reveal the name of individuals or organizations giving less than Rs 20,000. As a result, over 75% of the funds cannot be traced and are from unknown sources," he said. 

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